Scientist said gene may help control aggression and anxiety

CLEVELAND (AP) - A gene might control human aggression and anxiety, a researcher said.

The discovery is reported in an article published Thursday in Neuron, a biology research journal.

Evan S. Deneris, a neuroscientist at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine and principal investigator of the study, said the chemical serotonin in humans enables nerves to communicate with each other in the brain and the spinal cord.

Research previously had identified cells that receive serotonin, but Deneris said the gene in the study may control serotonin production.

Deneris discovered the gene, Pet-1 ETS, four years ago. In his latest research, he and colleagues manipulated the gene to try to learn its role in the aggressive and anxious behavior of mice.

When the gene was removed, the mice were very anxious and aggressive, he said.

"What is surprising is that you can have one gene that controls the development of that entire (serotonin) circuitry," said Katja Brose, a neuroscientist who is deputy editor of Neuron.

Deneris, one of 10 scientists listed as authors of the published study, said he sees the potential for researchers to find a way to identify people who are genetically predisposed toward aggressive or overly anxious behavior. His hope is such an identification could lead to a treatment.

His Pet-1 research has been funded by the National Institute of Mental Health for two years. He plans to do more studies to see how the gene affects sleep, learning and memory.

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